TEMECULA, CA — Twenty years ago, working in his Temecula vineyard was the only solace Jim Carter could find from the crushing pressures of his career in real estate development and banking, an industry that was in turmoil amid the S&L crisis in the early 1990s.
The acres that provided such comfort during hard times would eventually become South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, a place where Carter left his 9 to 5 behind to take up a much more fulfilling path — one that would become his family legacy, his son Jeff Carter told Patch.
“That was an escape for my dad from the business during the week that was just sucking all his energy and time,” he said.
Carter is now the president of Carter Hospitality and runs the resort.
“We were all out there every weekend helping plant the vines and water them and clear the field,” Carter remembered. “It was a kind of a family effort. And we’re happy to continue to carry that on…it’s the next generation taking over what he started.”
This summer, the Carters are celebrating 20 years in business. The property boasts award-winning wines, 63 acres of rolling vineyards, locally sourced cuisine, luxury lodging and soon, live music.
The vineyard reopened fully this month, but as is the relatable case with countless California business owners, the long road to resuming operations didn’t come without a struggle.
“During the pandemic, everyone just went through the worst year they’ve probably gone through,” Carter said. “And, you know, for us, we kind of look back at the early 90s.”
For Jeff Carter’s family, the coronavirus crisis mirrored some of the uncertainty many families faced during the collapse of the real estate industry in the 1990s, which ultimately inspired his father to grow wine full time.
“At the time he didn’t have a plan to open up a winery, it was really just his therapy up there,” he said. “But out of that terrible time, we’ve now got a family legacy to continue forward. So we look at the pandemic and we look at what’s been terrible about it, but there’s also a bunch of wonderful things that came out of it.”
After the onset of the pandemic, the resort had to furlough 358 employees. During the closure, Carter said employees were able to pick up groceries from the resort to help bridge the gap before unemployment benefits and stimulus payments became available.
“The most challenging point was realizing that this isn’t just two weeks and we’re going back to normal,” he said.
Looking ahead, Carter said the resort is coming back stronger than ever. During the trying months of the pandemic, Temecula’s wine country came together, with locals continuing to support wineries by purchasing the essential elixir online.
“The valley is coming out stronger and closer than it was before we went in,” he said.
For the first time in almost 19 months, live music will return to South Coast Winery’s grounds this summer with their annual Rythm on the Vine concert series.
The series will bring Grammy-winning jazz artists Paul Brown and Gregg Karakus on July 18, and Top Ten Billboard artists Brian Simpson, Steve Oliver and Will Donato on August 1. The final show on August 15 will bring Michael Paulo, Adam Hawley and Darryl Williams. Tickets and more information can be found here.
The resort has plenty to offer Californians and local Temeculans itching for a getaway, but visitors would be hard-pressed to overlook the wine that it was built around.
South Coast Winery was the first winery among 750 of the states’ top wineries to win “California Winery of the Year,” — and it won four times.
While Carter said it would difficult to choose his favorite out of 45 labels, the Ruby Cuvée — a light sparkling syrah with strawberry and raspberry flavoring — holds a special place in his heart.
“It was our first real success out here,” he said. “But all of our wines are award-winning and everyone who comes out here has such a different palate. If someone wants a sweet wine, we’ve got it, if someone wants a big bold wine, we’ve got it.”
Drinking aside, Carter strongly suggests that guests fully absorb the view at South Coast Winery and check out their premier dining.
“I think that everybody, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, should come out, sit on our veranda overlooking the vines and just have a wonderful meal at the Vineyard Rose.”
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is located at 34843 Rancho California Rd. in Temecula and can be reached at 951-566-4622. Travelers looking to book a reservation at the resort can visit the winery’s website.